Dublin's Must-See Architecture

Signature buildings are, in short, buildings that you forever connect to one (and only one) place in the world. Think Acropolis and Athens, think Tower Bridge and London, think Empire State Building and New York. So what are the buildings that scream "Dublin!" at you? Here is a short list, starting with Custom House.

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Custom House

Customs House in Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

Magnificently restored after being nothing but a burnt-out hulk for decades, Dublin's Custom House again dominates the Liffeyside. Unfortunately not quite visible from the city center, as some bright spark decided to build a railway bridge right next of it.

The best views are from Matt Talbot Bridge in the early morning. After that, traffic kicks in ...

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National Conference Centre

The National Conference Centre on the northern bank of the Liffey.
Bernd Biege

One of the landmark buildings that line the Liffey, the National Conference Centre has quickly been ​the nick-name "The Tube in the Cube". Have a wild guess how this came about. It still is an impressive sight, even though large parts are very plain.

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Anglo-Irish Headquarters

Unfinished business - the planned headquarters of Anglo Irish Band, the bank that tremendously aided the economic meltdown.
Bernd Biege

This is the carcass of the Celtic Tiger, so to say ... planned as the grand new headquarters for Anglo-Irish Bank, the monumental erection on the northern side of the Liffey became dysfunctional before even the windows went in. Because when the Irish economy imploded in 2008, Anglo went down in spectacular flames. And the building work stopped.

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Ringsend Power Station

View of Poolbeg Towers from Clontarf
Fireglo2 / Getty Images

It is neither a thing of beauty nor is it old - but the Ringsend Power Station with its twin stacks has achieved iconic status. And it spells "Dublin" to many people - if only because it is the first Dublin building you can make out when arriving by sea.

It is visible from almost anywhere in Dublin Bay, but the best view is from the sun deck of the "Ulysses" ferry ...

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The Spire

O'Connell street and Dublin Spine
John Wang / Getty Images

Ooooookay ... the world's highest free-standing monument resembles a needle and is about as popular with locals as the sewers below O'Connell Street and the Spire. You know they're there, but you don’t stop and admire them. Only artists, architects, and non-Dubliners spare this steel column more than a passing glance. Yet it has become a significant part of Dublin's skyline.

Popular nicknames are "The Spike", "The Needle" or "The Stiletto in the Ghetto".

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Aviva Stadium

Dublin's Aviva Stadium - the impressive (partial) view from the Liffey.
Bernd Biege

The almost organic form of the massive Aviva Stadium make it an attraction in its own way - though maybe only for sports fans and architects. You can glimpse the glass construction from the Liffey, the Grand Canal Docks, or close-up in Lansdowne Road. 

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Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

I am always in two minds about Ha'penny Bridge, spanning the Liffey between Temple Bar and "de Nordsoide" - on a good day it is a quaint Victorian construction worth a photo. On a bad day, it is a crowded haunt of beggars and tourists best avoided. But no other Liffey bridge is "more Dublin" than the Ha'penny Bridge.

And visiting Dublin without crossing it would be like going into a pub without drinking Guinness. Meaning you won’t be struck dead by a bolt of lightning if you don’t, but every other Dublin tourist will ask you how you could miss out.

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The Four Courts

The Four Courts - Old Dublin, Picture-Postcard-Like
Bernd Biege

Another of Dublin's official buildings and nearly destroyed during the Easter Rising, the Four Courts have been restored and are best viewed from the Liffey quays. Up close details of modern life will emerge, like security barriers and less salubrious "visitors".

Note that you may enter the visitor's gallery (if there is room) and have a look at the interior - but photography is forbidden here.

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The General Post Office

General Post Office in Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto 

Heavily restored after the heavy shelling of 1916, the General Post Office is just about the only remarkable building on O'Connell Street - but it is far more important for its historical significance. Here Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic (and declared war on the British Empire) at the start of the Easter Rising. A few days later the building was a burnt-out hulk and Pearse stood in front of an execution squad.

A major regeneration of what will be "Dublin's North Quarter" is being prepared, this will see major structural impact on the GPO.

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The Campanile of Trinity College

Trinity College

TripSavvy / Kathleen Messmer

The view that spawned a million postcards - the solitary campanile (bell tower) dominates the inner courtyard of Trinity College. Cue hundreds of tourists and the odd student obscuring your view.

Try a different angle - the campanile is rarely photographed (but no less photogenic) from the direction of the Rubrics. If you need the classic view, try any platform in front of the other buildings.

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Georgian Dublin

Doors of Dublin - a fine example in Fitzwilliam Square.
Bernd Biege

You will see it on signs, will read about it in guidebooks, will hear the tour bus driver talking about it - Georgian Dublin. Referring to an architectural style, namely the Georgian style(s), in turn named after a succession of Hanoverian kings in England, still very much defining parts of Ireland's capital today.

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The Guinness Brewery

Guinness Brewery, Dublin, Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

On calm days you may smell the Guinness brewery before you actually see it - and depending on you the thick yeasty smell might make you sick or smile. The classic view for most visitors is the entrance area to the Guinness Storehouse. If you want a better view, try the front lawn of the National Museum in Collins Barracks.

And if you want to experience the sheer size of Guinness, simply walk around the parameter. You’ll need a pint afterward.

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The Papal Cross in Phoenix Park

Aerial view of the Papal cross, Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland.
levers2007 / Getty Images

If you are not religious, these are just girders painted white ... but the massive Papal Cross in Dublin's Phoenix Park still is a focal point for many Catholics in Ireland. It marks the spot where John Paul II held the largest mass ever on these shores.

The memorial to the Pope's visit, as it is today, is a staple of bus tours through Dublin. Often just because it makes a great elevated viewing platform.

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Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle in Ireland

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Best described as a wild medley of styles, Dublin Castle is far from your typical castle. It has grown almost organically over the centuries and, due to its sprawling, yet hemmed-in city center location can only be properly viewed from the air.

So it's parts of Dublin Castle that have achieved iconic status as Dublin landmarks. Mainly the courtyard, the neo-Gothic chapel, and the adjacent Record Tower ​are medieval. And of course the view of the colorful façades from the Dubh Linn Gardens.

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Croke Park

Croke Park before the crowds arrive ... impressive nonetheless.

Bernd Biege

One of the largest stadiums in Europe, Croke Park can be visited on a tour but is best experienced when the GAA (who has its headquarters and a museum here) is putting on the All-Ireland Finals in September. For Hurling and for Football. Provided you can get a ticket, hens' teeth come to mind ...